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BBC needs to focus on online, talent and finance, says commerce chief

The BBC needs to respond to the fragmentation of audiences and the emergence of global competition by focusing on its online presence, developing “world-class creativity” and ensuring that its finances are stable, according to Bal Samra, the UK public broadcaster’s group commercial director.

Bal Samra at The Future of Broadcasting

Bal Samra at The Future of Broadcasting

Speaking at Marketforce’s The Future of Broadcasting conference in London this morning, Samra said that the BBC faces “more and more competition for audience attention”. The BBC faces also global competition for audiences as well as for talent and programming.

He said there was a gap between those who consume the BBC’s programming the most and those who consume the least, with divisions emerging between young and old, between demographics and between regions. Both young and old are going on social media and online more for content. Younger groups were gong online almost exclusively for news, he said.

Samra said that traditional media organisations face other big challenges. While globalistion of media is leading to global consolidation, new talent is seeking audiences direct via online platforms, particularly YouTube.

In this environment, said Samra, the BBC needs to focus on three things: to be part of the online world, to develop world class creativity, and to ensure financial stability.

In terms of its presence in the online world, BBC iPlayer has built a huge audience, he said, adding that the inclusion of live content online would be crucial for the future. Adding personalization and encouraging participation is a key priority, by growing the active signed-in user base, he said.

“This approach will help us build a deeper two way relationship with audiences,” he said.

Samra said, that despite earlier criticism, BBC 3 was now an online success story. Taking this further, the BBC had to deliver news on mobile first, he said.

In terms of talent, Samra said that the BBC had to better reflect the make-up of the UK and that it had to compete for world-class talent.

Samra said that “the BBC also has to get most out of our finances”. The move of BBC Studios into the commercial side of the business is one example of a shift that will provide opportunities, he said.